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Australian Queen's Birthday honour surprising, gratifying

Monday 21 June 2021 4:41pm

Professor Summerhayes (front) during a dig on Koil Island, which lies about 60km off PNG's north coast.

Archaeology Professor Glenn Summerhayes says receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Australian Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to tertiary education and history was surprising and gratifying.

Summerhayes, who has been at Otago for the past 17 years, says the award recognises his continued relationship with the Australian academy.

“I was surprised. The two-year process [of deciding the honours] is very confidential – I have no idea who nominated me or who acted as referees. I was 50 when I took up the Chair of Anthropology at Otago and have been living in Dunedin for 17 years. I am very proud of the award, and what was achieved before I came to Otago.”

Before coming to New Zealand he was Head of Archaeology and Natural History at Australia’s premier research institution, the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

In addition to being an Honorary Professor at both the Australian National University and the University of Queensland, Professor Summerhayes has continued professional connections with researchers in Australia.

Staff at several Australian institutions are involved with his Marsden-funded research in Papua New Guinea (PNG), and he and colleagues have gained three Australian Research Council grants. The projects from these grants have involved students from Otago, PNG and Australia.

“We are preparing the next generation, and this is particularly important for PNG. We have published in a variety of world-class journals including Science, Nature and many others. We have one article in press in PNAS.”

He is equally proud of what has been achieved in New Zealand research, and particularly the strong links researchers have forged between communities in PNG and Otago.

In the 2014 New Year’s Honours list he was made an Officer of the Logoho (OL) for more than 30 years’ research into PNG’s past.

“Both awards reflect Otago’s commitment to Pacific research. Otago is now the leading university for archaeology working in the western Pacific.”

Future work:
Professor Summerhayes is currently working on his latest Marsden grant projects exploring the role the north coast of mainland PNG played in the expansion of Austronesian speakers across one third of the world’s surface. This project will re-focus archaeological attention to north-eastern New Guinea in determining its role and impact on the expansion of all Pacific peoples. It will do this by focusing on an area crucial in assessing the nature of Austronesian occupation: the lower and middle Ramu river valley that bordered an inland sea 5,000–3,000 years ago. The project involves fieldwork, which was delayed by COVID, and two PNG students will come to Otago to undertake postgraduate studies when travel restrictions lift.

(Below: Professor Glenn Summerhayes (right) was made an Officer of the Logoho (OL) in 2014. Also pictured as his wife Rieko Hayakawa (left) and their daughter Kyoka (front), with the Governor General of Papua New Guinea His Excellency Grand Chief Sir Michael Ogio and his wife Lady Esmie Ogio at Government House in Papua New Guinea.)

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